This is the third in a series of Joe Biden’s first 100 days in power
After Joe Biden delivers his first major speech to lawmakers in a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Americans will hear a rebuttal from Republican Senator Tim Scott.
Scott said last week he intends to share “the Republicans’ optimistic vision to expand opportunity and empower working families.” But he’ll likely have a tough act to follow.
Biden, who marks his first 100 days in office this week, is expected to use his speech to win a victory lap for his administration’s accomplishments, which have proven widely popular with the American public. Chief among them are the stimulus checks included in its $ 1.9 billion economic relief package and the rapid deployment of Covid-19 vaccines to the point where every American over the age of 16 is now eligible for a stroke.
Republicans say Scott, the only black Republican senator, is the right person to deliver their message at a time when the party is embroiled in infighting over how to emerge from the Trump era and win back election seats midterm next year.
“He is what the Republican Party should be,” said Doug Heye, political strategist and former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “You can’t question his conservative credentials, but he’s someone who can help you put Trump in the rearview mirror.”
Scott, who was first elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the Tea Party movement, is a rare example of a politician who appeals to Trump’s Republicans while commanding respect from Democrats. It was endorsed by Trump’s Save America PAC, but is also in negotiations with Democrats over a possible bipartisan compromise on federal police reform legislation.
The latest Gallup poll shows that Biden’s job approval rating is 57%, higher than 41% for Donald Trump at the same time in his presidency, but lower than comparable levels enjoyed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Democrats attribute Biden’s popularity to his handling of the pandemic and big investments to jumpstart the economic recovery – actions that have been widely praised by a wide range of Americans and made it difficult for Republicans to deliver significant blows.
“There was nothing they could direct their fire at,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. “He almost didn’t make any serious mistakes. He had absolutely no scandals and he did things that people love.
But Republicans say political parties often struggle to form a cohesive counterattack without the power of the presidency’s “intimidating chair” – and have so far focused their attacks on issues such as the immigration, rising crime rates in some US cities, and canceling culture.
“A party without an incumbent always finds it difficult to create a unifying message because there are so many different messengers,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said.
Antonia Ferrier, former main assistant to Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, agreed. “There are always struggles when you are the minority party. . . you can never really compete with the White House, ”she said.
Republicans nonetheless say there are cracks in the foundation of the Biden presidency that they can exploit in the months to come, especially if the president moves forward with a more progressive political platform on everything from reform to the immigration and tougher gun laws to tax hikes for the rich. .
Analysts believe bold policy measures, implemented through executive order or legislation, risk alienating independents and centrist Republicans who backed Biden in the year’s presidential election last.
“Many problems remain beneath the surface, including the fact that President Biden has presented himself as a unifying candidate who would rule on a bipartisan basis, and so far he has governed in a purely partisan fashion, with the narrowest of voices. majorities. in Congress, ”Ayres said. Biden’s iconic political achievement – his sweeping economic relief program – was carried out without the support of a single Republican lawmaker, Ayres added.
Democrats control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to vote for a decisive tiebreaker, while the party majority in the House declined after November despite Biden’s victory in the White House.
Ayres said administrations that enacted policies without bipartisan support tended to “create a backlash that puts the other party in charge in the upcoming midterm elections.” During the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, Bill Clinton’s party lost control of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. And in 2010, voters rejected Barack Obama’s health plans by handing over the House to Republicans.
Ferrier argued that rather than present a cohesive alternative political platform, Republicans at this point need only poke holes in White House plans heading into next year, when the responsibility will fall on the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers to showcase their accomplishments.
“Because Republicans are in the minority, they can really spend time criticizing the president’s policies,” she said. “It’s not for Republicans to find a general political answer to everything.”